10 Best British Teen Movies

Friday, January 28 by William Gish

The 10 best British teen movies use quirky humor and the listlessness and ambition of youth to tell tales of large scale, historically complex issues of race and class. The films on this list are funny, crass, violent, sad, silly, and energetic depictions of British youth.

  1. “This is England” To call “This is England” a teen movie is somewhat myopic. Though the film revolves around the relationship between an eleven year old boy and a group of teenagers, it is more a sociological examination of racial tensions and impotent working class rage during the economic bleakness of the early 80’s, told through the filter of reggae, ska, punk, and skinheads.
  2. “History Boys” “History Turns” is a hyper literate story of a group of incredibly intelligent students at a small Catholic school competing for acceptance to the most prestigious colleges in Britain. It is both hilarious and very sad, and features a phenomenal performance from the actor who plays Uncle Vernon in the Potter pictures.
  3. “Harry Potter” Taken as a whole, the films of the “Harry Potter” series form one of the great arcs in popular literature and film, which surely qualifies them for a spot on a list of the 10 best British teen movies. The films themselves are fun, funny, swift, and original: the benchmarks for well-adapted children’s literature.
  4. “Small Faces” This Scottish coming of age tale pulls no punches in its portrayal of a group of teenage brothers struggling to find identity in a violent, depressed, working class Glasgow of the late 60’s filled with marauding gangs. “Small Faces” illustrates the woes of the Scottish youth watching the IRA fight the English while wondering why they don’t have the gall to do the same.
  5. “Quadrophenia” Were it not for the fact that the film largely ignores immigrant classes, “Quadrophenia” would be the ultimate British teen movie. One of the ten best British teen movies none-the-less, the film, conceptualized by The Who's guitarist Pete Townsend, tells the tale of boredom and upheaval as the Mod scene exploded in the late 60’s.
  6. “Children of Men” This brilliant sci-fi film is about teenagers in that it tells the tale of a world without them. What type of world is that? A cold, gray, violent, lifeless world filled with depression, tension, paranoia, and a lifeless adult society slowly marching toward doom. It is one of the ten best British teen movies for the manner in which it describes how important teenagers are to society.
  7. “To Sir, With Love” Sydney Poitier starred in this film of a righteous teacher attempting to learn and unruly group of English teenagers.  Named one of the bes high school movies ever by Entertainment Weekly, it is certainly one of the ten best British teen films.
  8. “Gregory’s Girl” “Gregory’s Girl” is an offbeat Scottish romantic comedy that fits snuggly alongside many a great strange British humor routine. There’s a school soccer team, a girl who is better than all the guys, and a sad sack goalie that falls in love with her. It’s a charming film and one of the 10 bet British teen movies. 
  9. “Bend It Like Beckham” David Beckham made quite the splash in its homeland and the States. A charming little film, and one of the ten best British teen movies, it tells the tale of a girls soccer team, set against the backdrop of tensions between the natives of England and immigrants from Ireland and the Indian subcontinent.
  10. “My Summer of Love” Religious zealots? Check. Teenaged lesbians? Check. Underage drinking? Check. An overall ambiance of strange malevolence? Check. Not the typical ingredients for one of the 10 best British teen movies, but then this isn’t your typical film. It won the British Academy Film award for Best British Film.  
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